RSNA 2021 is officially in the record books. After a two-year absence the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) returned to Chicago’s McCormick Place. The RSNA Scientific Assembly and Annual Conference is considered one of the largest expositions of its kind for radiologists, radiology technicians and other medical professionals. So, it’s no wonder that after two years of virtual meetings and working from home that people were curious and excited about attending and exhibiting in person. We were privileged to have four healthcare clients at the show. Many of our team members attended to collaborate with the management of their exhibits and get a feel for the conference. Here are six key observations from the event along with marketing strategies that should be implemented at any trade show – especially in these uncertain times.

1.   Attendance was lower than in 2019, but the stronger booths had steady booth traffic. Plus, nearly every exhibitor we spoke with indicated that the people who attended the show were ready for quality, in-depth conversations. After a two-year hiatus people were happy to see each other again in person.

2.  The show organizers required proof of COVID-19 vaccination from all attendees and exhibitors. The wearing of masks was required, as well. The overwhelming majority of exhibitors and attendees were more than happy to abide by all safety measures and virtually no one was walking around without a mask.

3.  We observed from our clients, and from other exhibitors, that even with downsized booths, the most successful companies provided attendees with experiential activities offering fun, educational, and interactive engagements. These activities grabbed the attention of passersby and prospects alike – giving them a reason to come into the booth.

PRO TIP: Smaller show? Think big by providing an experience to create buzz on the show floor and massive crowds in the booth. We collaborated with a market-leading healthcare imaging client to create a product launch, complete with violinists, a professional presenter and a countdown leading to the big reveal.

The Covergirl Violin Show surprises and delights at RSNA 2021

4.  With the reasonable expectation of lower attendance, our clients were successful at RSNA by using email blasts and landing pages to advertise their return to the show, then following up with a heavy social media presence.

5.  Many companies upped the success ante by scheduling meetings with customers/prospects ahead of the show.

6.  Successful companies brought their A-Team to staff the booth – engaging attendees in a friendly and attentive manner. We didn’t see many exhibit staff standing around or on their phones. We also observed that many exhibitors made use of trade show professionals, such as Brand Ambassadors, Greeters and Presenters to approach booth visitors, offer product information and take leads. We provided our RSNA clients with trade show “talent” to supplement their own staff and fill the staffing shortage due to continued company travel restrictions.

TPG Presenter delivers the pitch for our client at RSNA 2021


Our Experiential Marketing Manager, Kristen Heitman, expressed it this way:

Human interaction is good for the soul. Seeing peers, colleagues and friends in person was high on everyone’s list at RSNA 2021. The show was also a reminder that even with lower attendance and perhaps smaller booths, brands need to make a serious effort to surprise and delight visitors, create pre-show announcements, and communicate often via their social media accounts. As companies dip their toes back into the trade show pool, they can never forget that above all else, events are ultimately about…connection.


Experience matters! With 30 years experience creating thousands of events, designs and strategies, let us collaborate with you to go from now to NEXT.  Let’s talk!

Related article: 7 Time-Tested Strategies for Planning a Successful Trade Show